It looked like that maybe Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice was going to wisely steer clear of bringing the discussion in the campaign back around the the prosecution of Don Blankenship — or anything that would remind voters of Justice’s own mine safety problems, like his history of not paying his U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration fines.
But rival candidate Booth Goodwin, who has U.S. Atttorney prosecuted Blankenship — isn’t going to let Justice just walk away from this one.
This morning, the Goodwin campaign unveiled a new ad (it’s being distributed on social media, at least) featuring Dr. Judy Jones Peterson, whose brother, Dean Jones, died at Blankenship’s Upper Big Branch Mine. Here’s what Dr. Peterson says:
I don’t really understand why Mr. Justice would step out against the integrity of this incredible prosecution team. He of all people as a coal mining operator should understand the plight of coal miners, but I think unfortunately that the plight he understands best is the plight of Don Blankenship.
As some readers may recall, Dr. Peterson had previously asked that Jim Justice issue a public apology after Justice questioned the Blankenship prosecution.
Aside from the gubernatorial campaign, one potential impact of this strategy by the Goodwin team is to give more ammunition to Blankenship’s defense lawyers, who certainly want to make an issue in their appeal of the politics they say drove the entire prosecution in the first place. So far, this argument from Blankenship’s lawyers didn’t get any traction with U.S. District Judge Irene Berger or much sympathy from the jury — but who knows what might happen going forward.
On the other hand, it’s certainly different to hear a candidate for governor in West Virginia campaign on the fact that he prosecuted a coal company CEO for putting miner safety and health at risk.
I’ve asked the Justice campaign and the Blankenship defense team if they’d care to comment on this new ad, and will update readers if I hear back from them.